“In Lebanon, we always wait for a disaster to happen and then think of ways to avoid it,” says 17-year-old Samir Nakhlé, a youth participant with local organization Enfants Sans Frontières (ESF). Recognizing that awareness is essential to prevent problems, youth across Lebanon are leading campaigns aimed at educating communities and helping them resolve issues when they arise – before they become crises.
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Lebanon have anticipated food safety problems, but are now garnering media attention following the discovery of rotten meat at several suburban Beirut warehouses that supply restaurants, hotels, and food producers. Bringing even more attention to the issue, a prominent political figure’s wife became ill from food poisoning, leading to a government crackdown on food safety violations.
The recent problems prompted Nakhlé and ESF to work with the Lebanon Civic Support Initiative to launch a food safety awareness campaign. After attending health training courses, the youth visited homes to explain hygienic food preparation.
"It’s our responsibility towards the community to raise awareness on these issues since the government’s response is always delayed,” says Samir, who also distributed magnets with safety instructions and cutting boards to encourage the use of separate boards for meat and vegetables to decrease the spread of bacteria.
The Office of Transition Initiatives, which funds the Lebanon Civic Support Initiative, also partners with other groups taking a proactive role in promoting food safety. Tyr youth helped their municipality in South Lebanon implement a plan to monitor frozen meat imported to the local slaughterhouse. The youth group also conducted awareness-raising sessions on hygiene related to butchers’ meat waste disposal and are now implementing their meat waste management plan in the city.
Another group of activists launched an awareness campaign on consumer rights in Beirut. The youth, from local organization Nahar Ashabab, are part of the Youth Shadow Government, which is working to raise awareness and advocate for change on key issues. They conducted focus groups with consumers to assess their knowledge about their rights. The group is working to strengthen the role of the Directorate of Consumer Protection in responding to complaints and encouraging consumers to report violations.
Read more about the Lebanon Civic Support Initiative.